© 2024 Maine Public | Registered 501(c)(3) EIN: 22-3171529
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Scroll down to see all available streams.

Maine Senators Press for Increased Access to Therapies to Treat Opioid Addiction

WASHINGTON - Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, along with a bipartisan group of their Senate colleagues, have written a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services asking her to increase access to medication-assisted therapy for the treatment of opioid addiction.

The senators say medications such methadone and buprenorphine are "cost effective, reduce drug use, overdose risk and criminal activity." Their letter comes the same day Gov. Paul LePage took to the airwaves to criticize methadone and drug treatment in general.

In their letter, the group of senators, including Orrin Hatch, Richard Durbin and Rand Paul, a physician, urged Secretary Sylvia Burwell to ease regulations on doctors who prescribe buprenorphine. Current law caps the number of patients they can treat to 30 the first year and, with certification and a waiver, 100 after that.

The senators highlight the fact that methadone and buprenorphine are well controlled and considered the most effective tools to treat opioid addiction. And, they say, there is significant "under treatment with this proven therapy." According to their letter, just 10 percent of the 23 million Americans with addiction receive treatment.

Gov. Lepage, however, is apparently unconvinced that methadone is a benefit to patients. Speaking on Bangor radio station WVOM Tuesday morning, LePage said he's being told something else. "In some cases it works, but in the overwhelming majority of the time, methadone is not the direction we should be going," he said.

This year, the LePage administration proposed eliminating methadone coverage for MaineCare patients, but the Maine Legislature rejected the proposal after doctors and treatment providers panned the idea.

Maine is in the midst of an opioid epidemic and, according to the National Insitute of Drug Abuse, combining medications like methadone and buprenorphine with therapeutic support is the most effective treatment for those who suffer from opioid abuse disorders.